Changes at Jewish LearningWorks | Part II

Jewish LearningWorks
Strategic Direction and New Revenue Model
Details, Background and Frequently Asked Questions

Recognizing that Jewish life and community are profoundly changing, last year Jewish LearningWorks chose to undergo an inclusive strategic planning process – to reassess our purpose, strategies, as well as our operating and revenue model in light of those changes. We met with a cross section of stakeholders across our community, engaged in deep discussions with our staff and convened a task force to speak on behalf of groups they represent.


Strategic Direction

What communal educational needs did this process identify?
Educational leaders seek additional, enhanced, more-focused support for teachers and help teaching Jewish values during confusing and challenging times. Parents are asking for continued and expanded parent/family learning opportunities. Book-lovers want continuing library programs and services.


What were articulated as Jewish LearningWorks’ strengths?
Educators from community schools and synagogues told us they highly value the professional development that Jewish LearningWorks has provided. They particularly named flagship programs including fellowships for teen and family educators, NESS (innovation in synagogue schools), and BASIS (Israel education in day schools). They have also appreciated our ability to respond rapidly and effectively to help educators deal with crises.

Parents and family educators value our DiY(Do-it-Yourself) Holiday@Home handbooks and the Kesher concierge program. Library patrons appreciate literature-based educational and family programs along with the library’s circulation and reference services.

Overall, our stakeholders urged us to continue investing in the next generation by empowering educators and parents.   

How will the work change?
While we will continue to support educators and families, the way we support them will change in a few important ways.

Our educational work will orient toward the needs of the learner. Through fellowships, seminars, workshops, mentorships, curricula, books, and educational resources, we will empower teachers, educational leaders and parents with knowledge, skills, and tools to help their students flourish as human beings and as Jews. We will be less interested in “engaging more Jews” and more interested in advancing Jewish learning that enables students to deepen their impact on their families, their communities, and the world.

Our Family Education work will focus on empowering parents to create and sustain Jewish life and learning for their families. Programs that do not support these goals will be discontinued, relocated, or continued independently by the directors who ran them. Our educational support will be more integrated and less siloed.  We will do fewer things with greater depth. Everything we do will adhere to the highest standards of excellence.

 

New Revenue Model

 

How are you going to pay for this?
During the 20th century, the vast majority of our budget came from the Jewish Community Federation. Over the last twenty years, our revenue sources have diversified to include foundation grants, income from services, and contributions from donors.

Anticipating the end of Federation operating support this coming year, we worked to identify a way to close that gap and sustain our work. We recognized that our real estate assets could fill this need, so we’ve chosen to monetize these assets by leasing our properties. The resulting revenue will help fuel the best Jewish educational support we can imagine for our community.


What will the income from the lease support?
Through the income generated by leasing our real estate properties, we anticipate making substantial investments in Jewish educators and parents, including:

  • Educator fellowships

  • Learning networks

  • Intensive professional training days

  • On-site workshops and consultations at schools

  • Mentorships for young educators

  • Curated curricula and educational content

  • Sustaining the Jewish Community Library – supporting Jewish readers of all ages

We are dedicated to advancing Jewish learning that enables 21st century students, families, and our community to flourish. Leasing our property will help us achieve those goals.


What property will be leased?
The three buildings we own, located at 601, 639, and 645 14th Avenue, San Francisco, will be leased to help fund our educational programs. Our staff currently occupies 601, and 639 is leased to RAMS, a non-profit agency, through mid-2018. 645 is the location of the former Hebrew Academy, which closed one year ago.


Who will lease the buildings and under what terms?
Stratford School – a highly regarded private Preschool-12 institute – will hold a long-term lease to all three buildings. Stratford has committed to investing several million dollars into our property which will increase its value well into the future, enabling Jewish LearningWorks to further sustain and grow valuable educational services for our community.


Did you consider renting the former school building to a Jewish school?
Yes. We spoke with local Jewish schools and engaged in extensive discussions with one Jewish school regarding a short-term rental of the building at 645 14th Avenue.  However, that building is in serious disrepair and the cost of making the school safe and appropriate for students was greater than the school could afford to pay in rent. They expressed interest in buying that building, but Jewish LearningWorks is not prepared to sell its real estate holdings.

After those discussions concluded, our management and Board did some soul-searching. “Should we restrict our potential tenants to Jewish schools? Would leasing to a Jewish school better align with our mission, even if it came with a lower financial return?” These questions were important because there was an expectation by some that a Jewish school would occupy the building at a substantial discount.

We concluded that the work most aligned with our mission is our own work. Prioritizing the needs of one Jewish school would result in subsidizing that school and limiting the financial resources and ability for Jewish LearningWorks to serve everyone else.

In the end, Jewish LearningWorks decided to lease not only the school building at 645 14th Avenue, but also the other two adjacent properties to maximize the monetization of our real estate assets to support our work and to enable us to better achieve our new strategic goals from a more convenient physical location.


Did you put the properties on the market?
No. After we ended negotiations for the short-term rental described above, Stratford approached us, unsolicited. Their offer was extremely attractive for many reasons, but the terms of the deal were contingent upon our not opening up the bidding.


Why was the Stratford offer attractive?

  • Stratford’s offer was significantly more than we were quoted by three independent brokers – and 10X the monthly rent discussed in previous negotiations. The income, replacing the Federation funding, will support important communal education services;
  • Stratford will invest millions of dollars to renovate the school building, both enhancing the value of the property and relieving Jewish LearningWorks of shouldering that cost as landlord;

  • As an entity outside the Jewish community, Stratford’s lease payments will inject long-term funding into Jewish education at a time when philanthropic support for education within the Jewish community is undergoing transition and strain;

  • The property will be retained under our ownership - thus remaining a long-term asset that will enable Jewish LearningWorks to continue to provide educational services in the Jewish community well into the future.


Why is it worth spending money on new facilities when you already own the current site in the Richmond District?
While the deal necessitated our moving out of our organizational home, we welcomed that opportunity because:

  • We are far from BART and Caltrain, making our location less convenient to educators coming from all over the Bay Area;

  • Our buildings are not ADA-accessible; due to the age and the historic nature of some of them, making them ADA-accessible would be very expensive.


Where and when will your operations move?
We will move into an accessible location in San Francisco near BART and other public transportation. We expect to move around the time of the Jewish New Year and will provide updates as soon as we have more details to share.


Does the lease deal mean Jewish LearningWorks no longer needs donor support?
We will continue to rely on donor support, for which we remain extremely grateful.  The revenue from the new lease will replace the operating support we had received from the Federation, but the majority of our funding continues to come from individual donors who care about Jewish education, from foundations who support specific educational programs, and from earned income – fees that schools and educators pay for our services. The lease will help us cover basic administrative costs, enabling philanthropic donations to more directly support educational initiatives.


How can I learn more?
Contact us at changes@jewishlearningworks.org with questions about our strategic plan, our new programs to serve the community, our real estate deal or our anticipated move.